Speech to Parliament: Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill

I speak in support of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, subject to the passage of the amendment that has been moved by the member for Franklin. It is a very sensible amendment to this piece of legislation. It calls on the government 'to work with the broadcasting industry and national sporting organisations on a transition plan to phase out the promotion of betting odds and commercials relating to betting or gambling during live sporting broadcasts, with a view to their prohibition'.

As I said, this is a very sensible amendment, and it deals with an issue that I regularly receive representations and complaints about from constituents—that is, gambling advertising during sporting broadcasts, particularly at G-rated television time.

Many parents in the community of Kingsford Smith have contacted me about this important issue. To be frank, they are sick and tired of watching the footy or the cricket with their kids and having a gambling company pop up during half-time or an ad break, spruiking odds to their kids.

I had a father tell me that his eight-year-old son, who he regularly watches the football with on a Friday night, can now quote the odds. He says things like, 'Dad, look, the Tigers are up to $1.10—good time to get on.' When an eight-year-old kid can quote odds like that and say that to their parent, as the member for Franklin said, it is frightening, because that kid is on the fast track to gambling when they are able to, when they turn 18—or even earlier, unfortunately—and they are in many respects on the fast track to becoming addicted to gambling, because that advertising is normalising that behaviour.

It is normalising that activity to children when they are watching sport. They associate gambling with sport if they grow up seeing it on television all the time.

It is an issue that we as legislators can no longer ignore. There is deep concern in the community about this, and it is about time that the government and this parliament took action on the issue. I congratulate the member for Franklin for moving this very sensible amendment.

In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of gambling companies and websites, and in the ways we bet. You no longer just go to the TAB on a weekend or go to a licensed venue; you can now bet over the phone, over the internet, over the internet on your phone, or in any licensed venue.

The other thing is you can bet on anything. You have been able to bet on just about anything in recent years. You can even bet on how long this Prime Minister is going to last in the job and who is going to take over from him in the years to come. You can bet on everything at the moment.

What we need is appropriate regulation to encourage responsible gambling. I am certainly not arguing that gambling or all betting should be phased out, but we need to ensure that we have a mix of regulation and appropriate advertising so that these companies can advertise in appropriate ways to adults; that we are doing our utmost to protect the vulnerable; and, importantly, that we identify problem gambling when it does arise and provide appropriate assistance to ensure that those people are not blowing their whole pay cheque on online gambling or gambling in licensed values.

This is particularly important when it comes to offshore gambling that is illegal. Again, the number of offshore operators has been increasing, and access to them is available to Australians, particularly online through certain sources and Dark Web sites. Offshore operators pay no Australian taxes.

They pay no racing or sporting fees. In recent years, there was the race fields case, whereby the racing industry sought recompense from some of the gambling operators and those that use the intellectual property produced by racing—namely, the ability to gamble and to use the fields to do that.

We have seen legislation passed in recent years to ensure that the value of that copyright and that intellectual property comes back to the industry and goes into things like supporting the welfare of jockeys.

The Australia Jockeys Association have done a wonderful job in setting up a trust, the National Jockeys Trust, in Australia to provide assistance to jockeys who are injured or who have fallen on hard times, or to their families on the sad occurrence of a jockey passing away while undertaking their trade. We have been able to use that race fields legislation and that intellectual property return to ensure that it goes back into the industry and does foster the welfare of the participants in that industry.

Offshore operators do not share information with law enforcement or sporting bodies regarding suspicious betting activities. There have been some celebrated cases of corruption and of individuals undertaking suspicious betting activities, where betting has had to be suspended on NRL games, on soccer games and on tennis matches because of suspicious activities.

It is often gambling agencies that alert the authorities when they detect suspicious activities over their platforms, but that cannot be done by offline and offshore operators. They offer gambling services that are prohibited under the IGA and they provide minimal harm minimisation and consumer protection control. So there is a need to regulate this aspect of the industry.

This bill is the first of three legislative tranches and will introduce a civil penalty regime to be enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the ACMA. It will prohibit click-to-call in-play betting services by tightening the definition of a telephone betting service. It will amend the ACMA Act to enable ACMA to notify international regulators of information relating to prohibited or regulated interactive gambling services.

It will simplify and streamline the complaints handling and investigation process to remove mandatory requirements to refer matters to the police and enable ACMA to handle the entire process. It will enable the minister to determine by legislative instrument that a specific thing is or is not a sporting event for the purposes of interactive gambling. It will establish a register of certain legitimate regulated interactive gambling services to raise awareness amongst consumers of services which should be avoided. It will amend the ACMA Act to enable ACMA to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of information relating to prohibited or regulated interactive gambling services.

These are all sensible amendments to the gambling architecture and the legislation relating to the IGA but, as I mentioned earlier, there is more to be done in this industry. The amendment that is moved by the member for Franklin foreshadows that work that must be done by this parliament in the future. That is, to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect the vulnerable—particularly our kids—from exploitation and from setting them on a path towards problem gambling in Australia. I commend the member for Franklin for this amendment. I urge others to support that amendment to this bill.


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